Published: 07/04/2018 07:00 - Updated: 06/04/2018 14:45

Energy-saving cold call puts heat on government scheme

Written byIain Ramage

 

Lyn Dyke
Lyn Dyke kept detailed records during her distressing saga.

A ROSS-SHIRE widow claims her domestic bills have doubled since switching to an "energy saving" heating system promoted by the Scottish Government.

From what she has gleaned, others who took up the offer of the taxpayer-backed scheme may have suffered a similar outcome.

Lyn Dyke (73), who lives in a cottage at New Street, Shandwick, says she also experienced a catalogue of teething problems after making the leap in 2016.

In addition to rising costs, she claims the lack of thermostat timer on her boiler frequently left her home like a fridge.

The saga began, ironically, with a "cold call" in February 2016 from Home Energy Scotland, a Scottish Government programme managed by the Energy Savings Trust, an organisation that promotes energy efficiency.

Mrs Dyke was advised that a more economical heating system was available through a grant scheme. Relying on an old night-storage heating system at the time, she leaped at the chance.

However, she claims her total energy bill for heating, hot water and electricity for January 2017 to January 2018 soared to £2578.39 – compared to £1368 for the previous year.

"I’m buying gas at £165 to £180 every three weeks," Mrs Dyke said.

"It’s been two years that I’ve had to think about pretty much nothing else but my heating. It took them a year and a half to agree there was an electrical problem. All they wanted to do was put me off, put me off, put me off.

"To them, I was just an old woman who didn’t know what she was talking about. That’s why I’ve kept detailed records because they just didn’t want to know."

Her local MP Jamie Stone has taken up her case, raising it with the Scottish Government.

Mrs Dyke said: "His constituency office assured me I’m not alone with this problem. It would seem to me that the Scottish Government hasn’t been keeping a tight enough control on how and where taxpayers’ money is being spent."

A home survey in April 2016 confirmed that she qualified for liquid petroleum gas (LPG) central heating.

It was conducted by Warmworks Scotland, a joint venture between Edinburgh consultants Changeworks, the Energy Saving Trust and Bathgate firm Everwarm.

She stumped up £515 for gas cylinders and a concrete stand for them prior to installation. She was later informed by engineers that the wrong system had been recommended.

An incorrect boiler was then delivered. The work was rescheduled and another incorrect boiler delivered. Two boilers later, the installation was completed in mid July 2016 but could only be operated manually.

"I complained that I was having to pay excessively for my heating and hot water," Mrs Dyke said.

"I experienced temperatures of 12 degrees and 10 degrees a couple of mornings and the thermometer never rose above 17 and 14 degrees during those days. I was cold. Fortunately, the winter of 2016/17 was mild by local standards."

In May 2017, Everwarm agreed the system was faulty. An electrical repair followed.

Calor sent Mrs Dyke £500 towards the cost of the extra gas she required.

Warmworks offered compensation of £170 towards gas costs. She said she would accept it "only without prejudice", which would not affect any future settlement.

Some investigation by local SNP councillor Derek Louden gleaned that bottled gas costs 90p per litre, as opposed to 30p per litre for a tank.

Warmworks managing director Ross Armstrong said: "We aim to provide the best possible level of service for our customers and have already helped more than 11,000 customers across Scotland save an average of more than £400 per year.

"More than 98 per cent of our customers are happy but in the case of Mrs Dyke, it is obvious that we have not met our usual high standards. We have apologised and provided compensation. A full resolution has been agreed with our contractors that will ensure a more appropriate and long-term solution."

Mrs Dyke has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging her to intervene and stating that the promotion "turned out to be a travesty".

She added: "I continue to get cold calls offering similar deals."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "We’ve always prioritised tackling fuel poverty and, by the end of 2021, will have allocated more than £1 billion to addressing this issue and improving energy efficiency.

"Almost 100,000 fewer households were in fuel poverty in 2016 compared to the previous year. We want to do more, which is why we’ve recently consulted on a new fuel poverty strategy."

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